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Low Tech Tool Is Latest in Series of Safety Initiatives

June 27, 2012

by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Lee’s Summit Medical Center nurses Shelley May and Nancy Melcher

Patients at Lee’s Summit Medical Center can find essential information about their stay with the glance of an eye. No power cord necessary.

Lee’s Summit Medical Center revamped a former white board system into poster-size dimensions, which are now part of the landscape in every patient room. The white board, aimed to improve patient and staff communication, is in plain view for patients, families and staff members to use.

“We’re always open to what things we want to work on and improve,” said Nancy Melcher, chief nursing officer at Lee's Summit Medical Center. “Sometimes it’s the simplicity of an idea that should not be overlooked.”

More than a year later after its installation in patient rooms, Melcher said staff members have integrated the usage of white boards into their daily routines. Patient satisfaction with the low technology tool is strong, Melcher said.

“We’ve gotten great response from our patients,” Melcher said. “‘I feel safe because I know my nurse and have her phone number.’”

The patient white board lists the day of the week, date, room number, patient phone number, the nurse’s name, nurse’s phone number, name and phone number of the charge nurse, name of the physician, patient care technician, pain management goal for the patient, goals for the day and anticipated discharge date. There is a space for the case manager’s name and information about discharge.

“Families can update on phone numbers,” Melcher said. “That’s been very well used by the families.”

The nurses like it too, said Shelley May, RN, at Lee's Summit Medical Center. May said information is updated after each 12-hour shift. The oncoming nurse changes the name of the team, date, day and any other updates.

“We update everything,” May said. “We talk to the patient as we do it.”

She said the white board serves as a bridge for people of all ages. It is an effective way to communicate all information and helps patients with their goals, she said. May said when she meets patients and families at the bedside she points to the white board. She can quickly glance at the board and see essential information such as the patient’s preferred name, she said.

“I personally like it,” she said. “We’re in a tech-driven world. Something like a white board is so simple. Families can see what is going on.”

The white board is one of several safety initiatives the hospital has developed in the past three years, Melcher said. The hospital’s patient experience committee is charged with searching for ways to improve patient safety. The No Pass Zone and Three Never Statements are former initiatives the committee also launched, she said. The No Pass Zone program requires everyone from the housekeeping staff to the building’s environmental associates to respond to a call light.

“That really helps with things like our fall rate,” May said. “Whoever is up there will not walk there without going in. Everyone in the hospital has been trained to do this.”

May said patients feel validated very quickly when staff members respond to their need. Staff members who are unlicensed can quickly contact the appropriate provider, she said.

“It encourages team work. That’s what we’re all very good at,” she said. “It builds camaraderie. It shows to our patients we all work together for their best care.”

The Three Never Statements: "You’re not my patient," "That’s not my job," and "We’re short-staffed," are statements staff members are required to never say to patients, Melcher said. She said staff members responded favorably to the initiative after viewing a video. Once the initiative took root in 2010, patient satisfaction scores climbed, she said.

“It’s been very positive,” she said. “It all goes back to that patient-centered model.

"It went over very well with staff.”

Melcher said the nursing staff is very focused on improving the environment for patients. She said the team is willing to try the new projects. New initiatives require time before they are hard-wired into staff practices, she said, usually taking up to several months. Processes are not set in stone, either, Melcher said.

“We want to create an environment that is patient and family centered,” Melcher said. “That’s really the key component of all three. We tweak different processes.”

In photo (from left): Lee’s Summit Medical Center nurse Shelley May, RN, ADN and Lee’s Summit Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Melcher, RN, BSN, MBA with a patient white board. The hospital has increased its patient satisfaction scores and boosted employee teamwork with the implementation of this simple communication tool. Every patient room at Lee’s Summit Medical Center has a white board.

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